February 17, 2023• byGirl Well Read
Welcome to STYLE Canada‘s Boreal Book Club: a monthly meeting narrated by Erin Catto, (reviewer at Girl Well Read), for bookworms who’re looking to scour new pages. Since we aim to shine a spotlight on all things Canadian in life and style, beauty, and health and wellness, it goes without saying that every instalment of the Boreal Book Club will feature a Canadian author and their latest title. Be sure to use the hashtag #BorealBookClub to share with us on social!
Helen Tsang is tired of the pitying looks. From her parents, her friends, and even the bubble tea shop guy, who recognized her from the video. Almost one year ago, some loser couldn’t mind their own damn business and filmed an unsuspecting Helen’s very public break-up during what was supposed to be a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner. A video of her ex-boyfriend saying, “It’s not me, it’s you. You’re holding me back” went viral.
Desperate to give everyone something else to talk about and with Valentine’s Day approaching once again, she asks her long-time friend Taylor Li to be her fake boyfriend, just to prove that she’s moved on and hasn’t sworn off love. (Spoiler alert: She’s totally sworn off love.) Taylor is the perfect option—single for once, and for some godforsaken reason, he loves Valentine’s Day.
But Helen didn’t expect was how easy it would be to get Taylor on board, fitting right into the boyfriend-shaped hole in her life. All she wanted was a couple sickeningly sweet dates to fill her social feeds, not corny text messages of silly heart-shaped cakes, and bouquets of flowers that harbor hidden meanings. Wanting to be around his sunshine attitude and delicious forearms all the time? That definitely wasn’t expected.
With February 14 quickly approaching, it’s getting increasingly difficult to ignore her feelings, especially when she starts wishing it wasn’t all an act.
Oh God. What has she done?
Not Your Valentine is the perfect anti-Valentine’s Day/Valentine’s Day romance.
Written in first person, from Helen’s point of view, this novella checks all the boxes—grumpy/sunshine, friends-to-lovers, fake dating, fabulous food, and a healthy dose of steam! (This is an open door romance.) Also refreshing is Lau’s leading lady. Helen is intelligent, self-sufficient, and feisty.
After a viral breakup, Helen is feeling anti-romance and all things Valentine’s Day. She’s also trying to balance pleasing her family and friends who are concerned about her love life, or rather lack of one. So what’s a gal to do? Why get a fake boyfriend, of course. The only problem is that Taylor is too good at being the perfect pretend beau which causes Helen to start fantasizing about him and his forearms. Lau ratchets up the “is he into me, or isn’t he?” tension perfectly—she’s also a master at witty banter.
Set in Toronto over Lunar New Year and Valentine’s Day, Not Your Valentine is as decadent as a heart-shaped chocolate cake (with or without sprinkles). It is a Kobo Original and available now.
JACKIE LAU decided she wanted to be a writer when she was in grade two. She later studied engineering and worked as a geophysicist before turning to writing romance novels. Jackie is now the author of over twenty books. When she’s not writing, she enjoys gelato, gourmet donuts, cooking, hiking, and reading on the balcony when it’s raining.
Lau lives in Toronto with her husband, and despite living in Canada her whole life, she hates winter.
Scroll to read Girl Well Read’s exclusive interview with Jackie Lau.
GWR: Is there a particular author/work that inspired you to become a romance writer? Who are some other authors that are especially good with writing relationships and/or friendships?
JL: I started writing when I was twenty-four, which was actually before I discovered romance novels. (I wrote chick lit/women’s fiction at first.) When I began reading romance, some of my early favourites were books by Kristan Higgins, Julie James, and Tessa Dare. More recently, I’ve enjoyed Cathy Yardley’s Ponto Beach Reunion series.
GWR: Being a seasoned author, what is your favourite part of the publishing process? Is there anything that you still find difficult?
JL: I don’t think any part of the writing/publishing process is easy. Writing and putting a book out into the world is always going to have its difficulties. Sometimes I prefer writing the first draft; other times I prefer revising. I never particularly like the later stages, when I’m looking for errors and proofreading. By that point, I’m always sick of the book.
GWR: Do you prefer writing novellas or longer books (Donut Fall in Love, The Stand-Up Groomsman).
JL: Novellas, short novels, and longer novels all have their own advantages and challenges. I would say that overall, I prefer a shorter length, because it takes less time to get something out.
GWR: How did you come up with the concept for this novella? What sparked the idea?
JL: To be honest, I don’t remember exactly. I did want to write another fake dating romance, and I guess I was inspired/horrified by some of the detailed threads I saw on Twitter, of people observing relationships that were starting or ending in public.
GWR: Not Your Valentine features some of the best romance tropes—grumpy/sunshine, friends-to-lovers, and fake dating—what is your favourite trope to write and what is your favourite to read?
JL: All three are tropes that I enjoy both reading and writing. Grumpy/sunshine is particularly fun to write because it provides some great opportunities for banter.
GWR: Why did you decide to write the story from Helen’s point of view versus a dual narrative?
JL: I usually write romances with two points of view. This gives us something we don’t have in real life; we know what the other person is thinking. But one point of view can give you the tension of not being entirely sure what the other person thinks and feels, and I thought it would work well for a shorter book.
GWR: Most of your books are set in Toronto, why is it important for you to feature your city versus a US locale?
JL: Part of this is honestly just writing what I know and being lazy. But there are a lot of books set in New York, for example, and think we could use more books set in Toronto. Readers who are familiar with the city enjoy the references.
GWR: Can we just take a moment to appreciate the food…this book had me craving soup and chocolate cake. Do you enjoy cooking? What are some of your favourite dishes and desserts?
JL: I don’t mind cooking—I prefer it over any other chore—but I can’t say I love it. I almost never bake, aside from apple crumble, as I prefer to go out for desserts. I really love ice cream and gelato, and I do eat them in the winter, but they’re even better when it’s warm outside.
GWR: If Not Your Valentine was a beverage, what would it be?
JL: Hot chocolate with lots of marshmallows! A cozy, sweet drink…which Helen just so happens to enjoy.
GWR: Can you share what you are working on now?
JL: I’m currently writing another fake dating romance, this one with an author as the main character. It’s tentatively called Truth or Fiction, and it should be out in 2024 from Emily Bestler Books.